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July 26, 2016 / emmanintheworld

The Third Man

It’s official. Sen. Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III is the Senate President of the 17th Congress of the Philippines. How did the guy who protested his way to the Senate become the Senate President in five years?

In his inaugural speech, Pimentel acknowledged the odd situation of him being elected to the top post despite being the only member of the PDP-Laban in the Upper House. He credited it to his fellow senators’ selflessness and willingness to try new approaches. In particular, he credited Senators Drilon, Sotto, and Legarda for making it all possible.

Obviously, the senators didn’t vote for him as an act of selflessness. Like a traditional politician, Pimentel was very much open to making deals in order to secure his goal even if it means making his party-mates vulnerable to criticism. In this case, he gave out powerful committee chairmanships to Senators Leila de Lima and Panfilo Lacson, notable critics of the new administration.

This is not surprising since Pimentel doesn’t really have a record of consistency and credibility.

Coming off the win on his 2007 electoral protest, Pimentel packaged himself as an opponent of injustice and advocate of the rule of law. As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, he supported the decriminalization of libel in the Philippines. No less than the United Nations Human Rights Committee has characterized the libel laws in this country as excessive.

He also said in a 2015 interview that criminals should be treated with respect and dignity as human beings. He pushed for reforms that would improve the efforts to rehabilitate and train prisoners for social reintegration.

However, Pimentel reversed himself in both cases. He withdrew his support for libel decriminalization in May 2014 in the aftermath of the Napoles’s affidavit on the pork barrel scam. He did this not just because he thought the bill wouldn’t pass the plenary; he wanted to use the libel laws to sue Napoles and some media outfits himself!

Pimentel also forgot his advocacy for criminals’ right to be treated with respect and dignity when he defended Duterte’s statements on media killings during the campaign period. His justification was that the Constitution doesn’t protect journalists from violence if they resort to violence.

Also, Pimentel was one of the few senators who pushed for a probe on media killings during the Aquino administration. In fact, he kept on calling for one even during the campaign period. However, he hasn’t provided any statement on the extrajudicial killings since President Duterte won the elections.

With these inconsistencies as his record, it’s especially hard to imagine him following the footsteps of leaders like Manuel Quezon and Jovito Salonga as the Senate President. Let’s just hope that he shapes up quick or else the Senate as an institution will be a mess for at least the next three years.




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